Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Jeff Moser

Vir­tual re­al­ity is al­ready chang­ing the boat­build­ing land­scape.

Gaz­ing over a South African sa­vanna from an open Land Rover, I see big-game an­i­mals graz­ing in every di­rec­tion. Noisy bird calls and an ele­phant’s trum­pet­ing peal rise above the light rus­tle of the veldt grasses. It’s stun­ning. The scene soft­ens and sud­denly I’m sit­ting in a yurt with a fam­ily dur­ing sup­per. I look around the cir­cu­lar dwelling, down at my plate of food, then through the open can­vas door at the Mon­go­lian steppe. As I study a wall hang­ing, I feel a tap on my shoul­der— time’s up. I re­move the Sam­sung vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) head­set, and I’m back in New York City. The ex­pe­ri­ence was sur­real. Or was it so real?

VR has gone from a video gamer’s play­thing to an ex­tremely valu­able tool for myr­iad modal­i­ties. Boat­builders, too, are re­al­iz­ing the pow­er­ful ways in which VR can be im­ple­mented, from a ves­sel’s ini­tial de­sign to dock­side deal-mak­ing.

Peren­ni­ally at the fore­front in yacht de­sign and tech­nol­ogy, Dutch builders and de­sign­ers have been en­thu­si­as­tic about VR for quite some time. “The topic is re­ally alive,” said Jeroen Droogsma, Vri­pack’s de­sign stu­dio man­ager. Call­ing from the de­sign com­pany’s Am­s­ter­dam of­fice, Droogsma re­lated how VR is re­shap­ing Vri­pack, putting the ter­abytes of data pro­duced in yacht de­sign, re­fits, and con­sul­ta­tions to more ef­fi­cient use. “It’s al­lowed us to use data in a dif­fer­ent way, in a bet­ter way,” he said. “There’s much more in­tel­li­gence in those files than can be [seen] from print­ing on pa­per. We’re ex­tract­ing much more out of it.”

An­other Dutch­man, en­tre­pre­neur Ing­mar Vroege, founded Ships & Gog­gles as an off­shoot of his VR de­sign house Bricks & Gog­gles about two years ago. Vroege saw the po­ten­tial of VR in megay­acht de­sign, so he took his Ocu­lus Rift VR head­set to last year’s Monaco Yacht Show and im­me­di­ately im­pressed su­pery­acht be­he­moth Yacht­ing Part­ners In­ter­na­tional. “YPI was en­thu­si­as­tic from the be­gin­ning,” Vroege said. He’s cur­rently work­ing with com­pany on an im­mer­sive VR ex­pe­ri­ence for a 344-foot yacht.

Both Droogsma and Vroege men­tioned the dual role VR plays for builders and clients. “There’s a lot of money in­volved in su­pery­achts, and a high amount of be­spoke ob­jects and in­te­ri­ors. Builders want happy clients [and] to de­liver on time, so the more un­cer­tainty you can get rid of, the bet­ter,” Droogsma ex­plained.

Vroege echoed these re­marks. “Cus­tomers will be­gin to ask for it,” he said, adding that VR is help­ing builders ob­vi­ate the need to put to­gether scale mod­els. “By build­ing up the model [in VR], how it needs to be done by the ship­yard, we’re teach­ing em­ploy­ees to build a boat be­fore the build. It’s good for us, good for the clients, and good for the ship­yard,” Vroege said.

Across the pond, at around the same time Vroege was woo­ing YPI, Hat­teras Yachts COO Wade Wat­son was talk­ing with High Rock Stu­dios, a full-ser­vice mar­ket­ing firm. Wat­son had pre­vi­ously worked on VR projects with High Rock and saw its po­ten­tial for Hat­teras. The builder wanted some­thing in­no­va­tive to help ad­ver­tise its in-build 90-foot mo-to­ry­acht at the Ft. Laud­erdale boat show. “We needed some­thing more im­mer­sive, where the cus­tomer could get a real sense of space,” Hat­teras Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor Joe Ca­co­pardo told me.

Hat­teras pro­moted the VR for the 90 via its dealer net­work and had po­ten­tial cus­tomers lined up and ready at FLIBS. As with the Dutch VR sys­tems, these clients wore a head­set (HTC Vine and Ocu­lus Rift are the lead­ers in the field) and used a video-ga­me­type con­troller to tour the ves­sel. If de­sired, they could ask ques­tions, pull up a floor plan, select items, change col­ors of set­tees, up­date coun­ter­top ma­te­ri­als—even move bulk­heads.

For Hat­teras, VR “went re­ally, re­ally well,” Ca­co­pardo said, as the com­pany sold Hull No. 1 at the show. Ca­co­pardo now sees VR as a more per­ma­nent part of the boat-sell­ing process, a tool that can be used to get clients emo­tion­ally in­volved. And like Vroege, he thinks VR will play a ma­jor role in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and the spa­tial-re­la­tion­ship process. “Soon, we will be de­sign­ing be­hind the glasses, not on the com­puter screen,” Vroege told me. “All of the foun­da­tions [of boat de­sign] will be done this way.” Seems like VR is on board to shake up the boat­build­ing process for the bet­ter.

Vir­tual re­al­ity let show-go­ers at Yachts Mi­ami Beach ex­plore the Hat­teras 90 Mo­tor Yacht be­fore it was built.

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